He wears glitter make-up, a XXL mohawk wig and dances samba on 17 cm high heels. Fashion Clown Neto is definitely one of the most extravagant nightclub stars in Switzerland.
I met Neto Abelardo on the closing night of Fashion Days Zurich. We were both seated in the front row, just next to each other. I’ve always been fascinated by creative people who love art, culture, fashion and extravagant styling. Therefore, I started the conversation by paying him a compliment on his great look (women often apply the same strategies as men, don’t they?). He told me that he came from Brazil and that he had spent a few years working in a circus.
Neto Clown is the attraction of every event, but he’s far from being a diva or an exhibitionist: he is very courteous, self-determined, calm and mature. But I was quite astonished when I met him a week later for an extensive interview. Without the heavy makeup, the wig and the costume, he seemed so different at first sight: younger, smaller and reserved. He was very open in the interview. We talked about his performances with Amanda Lepore, his childhood in a circus, the nightclub scene, his experience as a fashion designer in SÃ£o Paulo, homosexuality in Brazil and Switzerland, plastic surgery and artists who perform till they drop dead.
You call yourself Neto Clown and you wear the make-up of a clown. Why?
Iâ€™ve been passionate about the circus since my childhood. When I was eight, I performed in a circus in my home city Recife for two years. My mother took me to the circus one day. I ran into the ring and started performing as an artist. I had watched the artists perform a few hours before during the rehearsals. The audience thought I was part of the show and started clapping. The circus offered me to rehearse and perform with the acrobats. I was over the moon and started going to the circus every day. Two years later, I had to stop. The circus moved away and my mother didn’t allow me to travel around the country with my circus pals.
You dance all night long in extremely high shoes (17 cm or 6.7 inches). Isn’t that extremely painful and difficult?
No, you get used to wearing high heels. As a child acrobat, I learnt very soon to keep the balance in a variety of positions. I love high heels, especially extravagant ones. It’s a pity that women in Switzerland don’t wear high heels very often. In Brazil, every woman wears high heels, even if the street is not tarred.
You don’t take the taxi to go to nightclubs. You prefer public transport. How do people react when they see you on a bus?
With my high heels and the mohaw wig, it’s nearly impossible to get into a normal cab. I have to lay on one side. Imagine how uncomfortable! I prefer to take the tram or the bus, where there’s plenty of space, especially for my wig. Usually I sit down, when there’s a free seat. I read a magazine or write messages on my iPhone. At the beginning, I was scared of travelling through the city by public transport, but Swiss people really reacted in a positive way. First they just stare, but then they come closer and start a conversation. They want to know who I am, where I’m going to. They often ask me if they can take a picture, they’re so fascinated and kind. Sometimes I make a bit fun of them by telling them that I’m a member of Cirque du Soleil.
Brazil is one of the leaders in plastic surgery. Do nightclub dancers often undergo plastic surgery?
People who perform in night clubs want to look good. Therefore, many of them undergo plastic surgery. Women often opt for a breast or lip augmentation. Men are more concerned about their belly, hips and buttocks. They often get implants to have a sixpack or a sexy bum. In Brazil, going to the plastic surgeon is quite common. Even poor people can have plastic surgery. They just pay it in 10 to 20 instalments.
Is a coming out as a gay difficult in Brazil?
SÃ£o Paulo is quite liberal. I had no problems performing as a fashion clown. Unfortunately, there are skinhead groups that beat up homosexuals. In smaller cities in Brazil, people are more prejudiced against gays. Swiss people are very open about it. Everyone leads his life the way he wants to. Thatâ€™s the reason why I feel so at ease in Switzerland. Most of the people who donâ€™t accept homosexuals in Switzerland are foreigners – often because of religious causes.
On your Facebook page, some of your friends encourage you to attend the casting of “Big Brother Brazil”. In 2010, it got 154 million votes at the finals. If they cast you, you might become a star.
I’m tempted to attend the casting, even though I hesitate to leave my clients down for three months. I have to inform myself first. I might sign up. I’m sure the Brazilian viewers would appreciate my extravagant look and my positive attitude.
You are 36. Are you going to retire from the nightclub scene when you’re 50 or 60?
If you’re really passionate about something, age doesn’t matter. Many musicians and actors work to an old age. In SÃ£o Paulo, some drag queens even died on the stage. They performed even though they were very ill. They had to be rolled onto the stage on a wheelchair. Shows and performances mean everything to me. I love to make people laugh. I love to surprise them. Therefore, I’ll continue dancing until I drop dead.
Read more about Neto in my extensive interview for Switzerland’s online news magazine number one (in German):
PHOTOS: NETO CLOWN
Photos: Courtesy of Neto Clown & Rafalicious
VIDEO: NETO CLOWN IN OPERA, A VIDEO BY GIORGIO SCOLA
VIDEO: NETO CLOWN IN TRIBUTE FOR LIFE BY GIORGIO SCOLA